Thursday, December 27, 2012

Finding Nemo

As explained in the review for Bleach: Memories of Nobody, I am one of three contributors to this blog that treats the entirety of the day after Christmas as "Movie Day", wherein we watch movies all day, some of which end up being ones received as gifts. One of the movies this year is the Blu-ray release of Finding Nemo, a classic Pixar movie that no doubt many people have seen and fondly remember, which I have been waiting a long time for. Though we have discussed Pixar's recent disappointments on this blog before, it's nice to go back to an old classic once in a while, when this studio had a consistently higher level of quality. While it has been a number of years since this movie came out when I was a kid, I have seen it a few times since then, and to this day it is a movie that never gets old.

The plot, for those of you who have not seen this movie yet, centers on a clownfish named Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his wife Coral (Elizabeth Perkins), who have recently moved into an anemone along with their abundance of eggs, which are nearly ready to hatch. Their happiness doesn't last long, since a barracuda attacks them and eats Coral, along with all of their eggs...except one, which suffered a scratch. Heartbroken, Marlin gives it the name Nemo, which Coral expressed likeness for shortly before the attack, promising not to let anything happen to it. Years later, it is Nemo's (Alexander Gould) first day of school (there's a rather subtle pun in there that took me years to figure out), and it is evident that Marlin has become somewhat overprotective of his sole surviving offspring, who has one smaller fin than the other; this is a birth defect resulting from the barracuda attack. Though he has already dropped his son off, Marlin can't seem to let him go as he chases after the class when he hears where they are going. As a result, Nemo defies his father and swims out to open sea to touch a far away boat. However, this results in him being taken by a couple of divers, causing Marlin to chase after him in desperation, not knowing the journey that lies before him.

Though I was young when I first saw this movie in a theater, it still touched me even then, which made me more grateful that I had parents who cared for my well-being. For a variety of reasons, this movie may hit close to home to many a viewer, something that Pixar has not been able to do as of late. Some moments truly capture the essence of a father-son relationship, especially when the father is willing to do anything, including running into dangerous situations (in this case sharks and jellyfish among other things), so long as it means saving their son. It's certainly a very touching story, and I believe that most people out there feel the same way.

The animation work deserves special mention, due to the fact that all the movements in the movie, especially in regards to the sea life, seem to flow very naturally. Though some obvious liberties were made for the sake of displaying emotion, everything looks and moves very realistically, and there's some incredible subtleties in the detail, in both design and animation, that may take a few viewings to notice, which is something that I like to see in a movie. Even when you know it's all computer generated, you actually believe the (slightly cartoonish) underwater setting, and this still holds well for a movie released in 2003 (a feat that is, needless to say, very impressive for the time).

The voice acting in Finding Nemo is really good all around and, much like the recent game L.A. Noire, even minor characters display a good performance. This quality of delivery really helps whenever a joke is made, but that's not to overshadow the more emotional moments in the film. You really get a feel for what each character is feeling, which is perfectly reflected in the animation, and as a result you can truly believe how Marlin and Nemo feel about each other, something that the later Brave was unable to truly replicate. Complimenting this level of acting is an equally amazing score, which hits all the right marks at all the right moments to set the stage for the narrative in just the right way.

As I mentioned, there is some humor to be found in this father-son tale to take a load off from time to time, but it's done such that, while memorable, it does not overshadow the messages to be taken away from the overall work. The timing of each of these funny moments is just right, and when the movie does get funny, it's really funny. One thing that's half-expected from a movie with children expected to be in attendance (here that's about half the target audience) is a joke relating to a bodily function of some sort (if you've ever seen a modern full-on kid's movie, you know what I'm talking about). Though there's a few of those here, what sets these apart from the rest of the crowd is that, not only are they completely justified in-universe, they're actually funny, with the reaction being the kicker more often than the act itself. In an interesting variation, Marlin's ability to tell a joke is, I have realized, actually a good sign of his character development, which is done rather well over the course of the movie.

Finding Nemo is one Pixar movie pre-Cars 2 that is definitely worth checking out. The underwater setting is fairly realistic and believable and the father-son dynamic is very interesting to watch develop over time as Marlin and Nemo learn more about what it's like to be away from home. This movie is truly heart-warming with a perfect blend of drama and humor that makes it a rather unique specimen in the animation circle. If you somehow have not seen this movie yet, I would suggest you do so right now.

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